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3-Strike Preview: Georgetown at Xavier

The Hoyas will bring their scorching bats and a four-game winning streak on the road with them this weekend, as they visit their friends in Cincinniat, the Xavier Musketeers, for a three-game set at Hayden Field.

With an 8-7 come-from-behind victory over UMES in the second part of Wednesday's double-header, Georgetown surpassed its win total from a year ago, improving to 20-17 overall. Now the Hoyas get back to Big East play, after a brief recess, as they faced Stony Brook last weekend and are facing a conference foe for the first time since taking two of three from Villanova from April 10-12.

This series presents a big opportunity for Georgetown, which can really cement itself as the No. 4 team in the Big East with a series win over the bumbling Musketeers, who are a miserable 10-31 overall, including a 1-8 mark in conference play. Excuse me for beating a dead horse, but Xavier is  just terrible. Now, without further ado, here are three things to watch during this weekend.

1. Super Smash Bros

All you Nintendo fanboys reading this probably already know that Mewtwo, the mysterious Pokemon, was released as a downloadable character for Super Smash Bros on Wii U recently, so it only seems fitting to talk about the Big East's own Super Smashers; the Georgetown Hoyas. Thanks to a recent power surge, the Hoyas are now leading the Big East across the slash line (.284/.374/.379) as well as in home runs (15) and runs per game (5.6). They are one of only two teams in the conference with more than 200 runs on the season. Butler is the other, but the Bullogs have two extra games on their ledger.

Leading the offensive renaissance, which has featured 33 runs in the last four games, is the trio of catcher Nick Collins, first baseman A.C. Carter and shortstop Ryan Busch. The heroics of Collins have been well documented. The Hoyas backstop is second in the league in batting average (.361), while slugging a robust .531. He has five home runs, which is tied with Seton Hall's Sal Annunziata for the Big East lead. Carter has swatted two of his four home runs in the last week alone and leads the league in RBI (31). Busch is a less apparent offensive start, with a rather forgettable slash line (.250/.327/.357), however, he went 4-for-4 with two home runs last Sunday in a 10-1 win over Stony Brook and has scored the fourth-most runs in the league (28).

By the way, if I was to liken these three to actual Super Smash Bros characters it would look something like this: Collins is King Dedede (tons of pop), Carter is Charizard (tall, on fire) and Busch is Mr. Game & Watch (appears weak, but when he connects with one, watch out).

2. Defenseless

Often times, the third phase of the game is overlooked for the flashier areas of hitting and pitching, except on the highlight reels. But flat ignoring defense is a bad idea. Unless your pitchers strike out 27 batters a game, those in the field are a huge part of a pitcher's, and thus a team's, success. Perhaps someone should let Georgetown and Xavier know. The X-men and the Hoyas are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in fielding percentage in the Big East, marking them as the two worst defensive squads in the league. The Musketeers have committed a league-high 56 errors, while Georgetown is right behind at 55. In addition, the Hoyas have turned just 24 double plays, with Xavier recording 30 twin killings. Busch plays the toughest position on the field, other than pitcher, but the Hoyas shortstop is a big part of Georgetown's problems, as he is guilty 15 errors, more than any other player in the conference.

3. Free passes

When you have a team ERA hovering around 5.00, it's probably not a great idea to let opposing batters get on base without swinging the bat. Unfortunately, Xavier has fallen into such a pattern. The Musketeers have walked a league-high 184 batters this season. However, the free rides on the carousel are handed out in other ways, with Xavier leading the conference in hit batters as well. Once opponents reach base, they have a tendency to move around, with Butler tied for first in balks (6) and ranked second in wild pitches (37). Adam Hall (1-3, 4.43 ERA), who will make the start for Xavier on Saturday, has been the most erratic, with 12 hit batters, six wild pitches and two balks. If I'm Georgetown, I would be extremely patient this weekend and just let Xavier beat itself.